Santiago, Atitlan, Guatemala
Mar 4, 2009
|Sorry for the long silence. Don’t worry , the Emblads are still alive!
We arrived in our home Santiago a month ago. This is where we will be for the next 3 months or so. Santiago is dirt poor and lacking in so many of the fundamental things we take for granted.... grocery stores, sidewalks, effective police, good schools etc... Few can afford paint for their houses so though Santiago is set on the coast of a beautiful lake nestled in between 3 volcanos it looks a bit like bombed-out Lebanon from afar. The lack of color on the buildings is entirely made up by the women’s beautiful traditional dress. Here the majority of the women still wear the traditional corte (long skirt of colorful fabric) and huipille (beautifully embroidered blouse). There are several pueblos around the village and each one has their own color and style of huipille. Here in Santiago everyone wears purple with designs of flowers or birds. Everyone here speaks Tzutzuhille and only those younger than 20 speak Spanish. Santiago is the largest concentration of indigenous people in Central America.
We are adapting quite well. We were fortunate enough to live in a beautiful house on the lake with a gorgeous view of Volcano San Pedro and Lake Atitlan. I think the highlight of the month may have been the day that Peter discovered Pedro the local fisherman. Peter was taking his daily swim and thought fish for dinner was a good idea. He swam right up to Pedro in his kiaku ( little wooden boat) and asked if he had any fish to sell. 3 hours later we were eating fresh fish.
The kids are in seventh heaven. We are surrounded by beautiful gardens, trees and rocks to climb and animals to catch. Annika loves catching frogs and they both love playing with the day old puppies next door. We have been so lucky in that we live next to a family of 3 so the kids do not suffer from lack of friends.
We have had a little change in plans regarding schools... the kids are not going across the lake everyday to the American school. We were misinformed. The 30 minute boat ride can actually take up to 1 1/2 hours (each way) and the lake was so rough last month that a ferry flipped over killing one. no thanks. Our only other option is the Evangelical school directly across from the hospital. My father's comment when I told him about the lake and school was " Well, after Evangelical school they should be able to walk on water and the lake won't be a problem any more!"
The kids have been such troopers. They stick out like sore thumbs. Everyone speaks Spanish and no English yet they march off every day. The educational experience leaves much to be desired. The material seems to be at least 2 years behind. The teaching style lacks all creativity. ( Much of Annika’s work is writing the same sentence over and over for 2 or 3 pages. ) School is out at 12 every day ( or 10 or 11:30 - they never actually let me know this part) so we have great home schooling in the afternoon. What they lack in formalized education they are making up in friends, Spanish and the incredible cultural experience of being at a Guatemalan school in the middle of nowhere.
The hospilito is everything we thought it would be. It is a backpacker hotel converted into medical center. We have a great staff and view but no Cat scan, respirator ( thing that helps you breath when you can´t), surgeon, cardiac monitor etc. Our xray s are developed in the bathroom as that is the only dark room. A clinic visit costs 20 Q - about $3. When patients come they come with the whole family. There is no food service for the patients so families often camp out with picnics. Peter will tell more.
Tuition for the kids here is $7 a month!!!
Application process for school here took all of 5 minutes and we were in the next day.
30% of Guatemalans are illiterate
50% of the indigenous here are illiterate
Tuc tucs are the main form of transportation here. They are little 3 wheeled covered motorcycles. Few have cars.
Scorpian tally as of today : 4 (though they’re not poisonous)(that is 3 in the house)
Over half of the population of Guatemala is under 15
That is all for now. We hope you are all doing great. We´d love to hear how great you are
Gillian, Peter, Alex, Annika